The group spearheading the drive to save Towson State football emerged from a meeting with university president Hoke Smith yesterday in an upbeat mood.
After collecting $25,000 in pledges during the team's 55-27 homecoming loss to New Haven, parents of the current players and of former Tigers met with Smith for an hour to discuss an alternative to suspension of the program.
Jack Patterson, father of freshman tight end Sean Patterson, said: "Unless I'm misreading the situation, he [Smith] is indicating he will delay a decision over the long haul for a couple years.
"That would give us more than enough time to solve the problem . . . to try to come up with a fund-raising vehicle to ensure that the athletic department is going to be stable in every respect. I'm confident we'll get that opportunity."
Smith would not comment on the meeting, in which he elaborated on the problems that have led to a two-year deficit in the athletic department.
Because of the shortfall, the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee has recommended to the University Senate that football be suspended. The Senate is expected to consider the matter tomorrow.
"I'm still very concerned about what the Senate will do," Patterson said. "They can table it, delay it, change it. But people are talking about them delaying any action for two weeks."
After tomorrow, the next regularly scheduled Senate meeting is Nov. 19.
Former Tigers tight end Hernando Mejia said: "The ball is now in our court to raise these dollars. But I feel positive we can keep this thing going after Hoke elaborated on a number of things and brought out the school's financial problems."
The parents and alumni will meet next week to coordinate their fund-raising efforts.
"If the decision isn't made Monday, it will give us an opportunity to formulate all the ideas," said Mejia. "We are not looking at a short-term fix. We're looking at long-term things to raise dollars."
Towson has 35,000 alumni within a five-mile radius of the school, according to Mejia.
"What we're talking about now is just maintaining what we have, but, in the long run, to be competitive, the team has to go from 44 scholarships to 66," he said. "We have to think in those terms.
"Nothing is guaranteed, but I felt today was a step in the right direction."
Smith pointed out in the meeting that one of the fund-raising problems in this area -- as opposed to Harrisonburg, Va., the site of James Madison, for example -- is that so many other entities, including colleges, are competing for the same money.
Smith also said he was disturbed that no organized campus group except the basketball team attended last week's open forum in support of football.
But, basically, he seemed open to the group's suggestions.
"I'm not even thinking of the situation being bad any more," said Patterson. "What we wanted to show was that parents and alumni were willing to rededicate themselves. Then we can show the business community."
Patterson said he was encouraged by the amount of pledges received and said he will be sending cards to the parents unable to attend yesterday's game.
"Another thing we need is to market this program," he said. "There are successes people aren't even aware of. And I think football is responsible, after all the success it had at Division III, then Division II."